Story and Photos by Kevin Estela
In the world of hard-use wilderness survival knives, the name Scott Gossman needs no lengthy introduction. Scott’s knives have become synonymous with terms like “tough,” and have been widely accepted by top names in the survival community, as their go-to blades.
Scott has earned his reputation by torture testing his steels with .41 magnum revolvers and centerfire rifle rounds. However, Scott is not the only one who torture tests his knives; his customers – from around the world – have posted countless photos to social media, featuring his knives being pounded through knotted hardwood, cutting through 55-gallon drums and processing tough hides from wild game.
Let’s put it this way, Scott’s knives have the attitude of an 80’s rock band, the kick of a good whiskey and the bad assery of the Expendables cast.
As you can imagine, when the opportunity arose to test one of Scott’s newest designs, the Kubo II (slightly shorter than the Kubo I, of which he used a modified version on an unaired run on Forged in Fire: Knife or Death), I didn’t hesitate to sign up.
Let me explain why.
The first thing you notice about the Kubo II, is the distinct recurve of the blade.
At almost 2-inches wide and 3/16-inch thick, the 8.25-inch S7 steel blade has a lot of mass; packing serious chopping power into a relatively short design. I say short, taking into consideration that with an overall length of 13.25 inches, it comes in significantly shorter than Scott’s other larger blades; all with longer cutting edges and overall lengths.
The Kubo II has a full-exposed tang construction with micarta handle scales, secured both by pins and hollow tubing, for lanyard use.
The grind Scott uses is a blend of both flat and convex – ground on a KMG grinder – and he consistently measures the thickness of the cutting edge, as well as just behind it, with calipers. He also religiously tests his blades, on a Rockwell hardness tester, after retrieving them from his Evenheat Kiln.
Drawing from his time in the competitive BLADE Sports world – and experience, testing his large knives in the field – Scott included a forward lanyard hole in the design of the Kubo II. This placement allows the blade to be secured to the wrist, while allowing the wrist to move naturally and unrestricted.
The Kubo II, as I see it, is a perfect “do all” survival blade. With a section of the blade meant for chopping, a section for fine carving and a tip strong enough for penetration, I started planning out appropriate tests for this knife before I even received it.
If you’re wondering where the name “Kubo” comes from, it is a Filipino word for a type of indigenous house. It also happens to be a combination of the words kukri and bolo. Looking at the design of the knife, it definitely has a kukri-esque blade shape, with the handle of the popular Gossman bolo. Hence, “Kubo.”
I have to admit, the first time I handled the Kubo II, I giggled. If you think a middle-aged man laughing like a small child is strange, I challenge you to hold a Kubo II and imagine the possibilities, without at least cracking a smile. The knife inspires confidence and motivates you to get outside and use it.
Scott’s knives are never highly polished. He doesn’t care for mirror finishes or buffed surfaces. Like I mentioned before, his knives are styled more like ZZ Top than a glam rock band.
I immediately took it to one of my favorite training areas and used it to clear camp for the fall. The primary purpose of the Kubo II is chopping, and I wanted to see how it worked on those annoying 1-inch saplings that sprang up in my work area since the last time I was there.
With fast, but light swings, the Kubo II slashed cleanly through the little maple, beech, and oak trees. I then moved on to frozen and seasoned maple, chopping it down to size for my fireplace. Using a Kubo II on these is more of a sharpness test than a strength evaluation. While the clean cuts were immensely satisfying, the Kubo II was begging to be treated a little more roughly.
I took the Kubo II to a friend’s property and did some work on some bamboo that was growing out of control. When I hit it just right, the Kubo II traveled cleanly through 1- and 1.5-inch bamboo with ease.
Scott is known for batoning his blades, and I wanted to make sure to use his Kubo II in a way he’d approve of. There was a nice 10-inch downed oak tree on the property I had bucked up with my chainsaw. I split every round with my maul but used the Kubo II to quarter every half.
Sure, this test took longer than I would have liked – going from one tool to the next – but it beautifully demonstrated the durability of the blade. Just for giggles, I beat the blade through one of the larger rounds to split it but found the length of the Kubo II to fall slightly short of what I would want, when doing this kind of larger woodwork.
I found the Kubo II to work great inside the confined quarters of my heated Kifaru tarp, with a titanium stove. I was able to use the knife, baton-style, to feed my stove, without having to swing it to chop wood down to size. For those looking for that one-tool option, this is the one you may want to bookmark and start tracking.
Throughout the day, I used the knife like a dedicated camp knife. It worked fine for carving and I appreciated the larger handle for comfort. The area just forward of the grip remained the sharpest, since it is just before the chopping sweet spot.
I came to appreciate the thick handle of the Kubo II, as it allowed me to carve with it for extended periods of time without fatigue. Even with a big blade, the Kubo II was nimble in hand and balanced well when I choked up on the grip. This may come as a surprise to some of you, but the Kubo II could actually cut the Polish kabanosy, kielbasa sausage and sharp cheddar cheese with ease.
The continuous curve of the belly sliced neatly through grapefruit and other fruit snacks. But, be aware, S7 isn’t rust resistant and foods with high salt and acid content can discolor the steel. However, keep in mind, this is a user knife and Gossman knives aren’t meant to be safe queens. In fact, the best-looking blades are the ones that show the most use and wear.
The more I carried the knife, the more I used it outside of the usual comfort zone. I used the flat of the blade as a spatula in my camp kitchen, as well as a hammer to pound in wooden stakes; securing my tarp shelter in windy conditions.
I even broke a cardinal rule of not digging with a knife and dug into the ground to make an “H” fire. If you’re not familiar with this type of fire, two flaps are cut into the ground and folded open to expose a hole, where a cooking or discreet fire can be built.
I’ll admit, I pushed the knife beyond the point of “shaving sharp” but it retained a respectable edge. I just used Scott’s Gossman Survival Tool (a D2 sharpener made in the tradition of the Schrade honesteel) to work my S7 back to a sharper condition.
The Kubo II is a knife Scott continues to make on a regular basis. But you have to be quick on the draw if you’re going to snag one, as Scott doesn’t take custom orders and his knives sell out online in minutes – if not seconds.
Don’t worry if you don’t get one on your first try, Scott enjoys making big blades, and as long as the demand for his knives remains high, he won’t stop grinding away in his shop in Whiteford, MD – with good ole’ rock n’ roll (like ZZ Top for the man we jokingly call “ZZ Chop”) playing in the background.
I am not giving this one back to Scott and I’m going to continue using it on more of my trips to the great outdoors.
This knife is tougher than I am, and it will keep earning that well-deserved reputation for toughness and quality, every time it clears leather. This knife gets the absolute highest recommendation from me and is in a class of its own. Pick one up for yourself and you’ll know exactly why. K&G
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Blade Material: S7 Blade Length: 8.25 inches Overall Length: 13.25 inchesBlade Thickness: 3/16 Inch Blade Width (widest): 2.5 inchesWeight: 22.4 ounces Handle Material: Natural MicartaSheath: Leather PouchMSRP: $555.00
Gossman Knives(443) 617-2444www.GossmanKnives.com
Gossman Knives (when available)
Scott supplies each Kubo I or II with a sturdy hand-stitched leather sheath.
The Kubo II, provided for this review, came with a nice foldover style sheath, made from black pre-tanned leather. The belt loop is riveted in place and the entire sheath is stitched with artificial sinew.
The Kubo II is a beast of a knife, and the sheath Scott makes to accommodate the recurve blade, holds the knife securely in a deep pouch, with little more than the lanyard hole showing. For retention, this lets the user take the lanyard off the forward hole, move it to the rear lanyard hole, and wrap it around the belt, in the event that added security is necessary.
Since the balance point of the knife is far forward of the handle, a pouch-style sheath – that wraps around the handle – works well.
Kevin Estela is a professional Bushcraft and Survival Instructor, Author, Martial Artist, and teacher. He is the former Lead Survival Instructor of the Wilderness Learning Center under Marty Simon and the Owner of Estela Wilderness Education. Kevin’s book, 101 Skills You Need to Survive in the Woods is an Amazon best seller and his 140 published print articles in 20 different magazines with many more online blog posts make up over a decade of his outdoor-industry writing career. Additionally, Kevin is a Sayoc Kali Senior-Level Associate Instructor and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Purple Belt. He has trained under top firearms instructors and he enjoys shooting and marksmanship. A knife guy through and through, Kevin has been tapped by numerous companies to assist with knife designing and testing. His company motto was born of his no-nonsense outdoor experience in many countries around the globe, “Trusted information proven in the field”. When not wearing these hats, he is a mild-mannered high-school history teacher in a public school in Bristol, CT.
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